Nikon's telescope credentials are well established, but the company yesterday announced its first investment in smart telescopes. It is not, however, a completely strange new world; Nikon is backing Unistellar, a French company with whom it has already worked.
Smart telescopes are seen as a disruptive technology in the amateur astronomy market, with smartphone control helping people find the subjects and keep them in frame. Nikon had already prodived a micro OLED eyepiece for the Unistellar eVscope 2, after a previously announced partnership. Now it seems Nikon is investing in what might be the future of its telescope business.
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Unistellar's description of the Nikon technology is fullsome in its praise. It describes "a sophisticated array of lenses, sourced from Nikon's expert optical labs." And that's just for the eVscope 2. The next step, according to the Unistellar announcement, is to become the world leader in consumer astronomy.
"Nikon ambitions to contribute to the advancement of science by bringing the excitement of astronomical observation to all" is the word from Yasuhiro Ohmura, Senior Vice President of Nikon.
We hope we can blame the translation for the verb use there, but the point is strong. Unistellar smart telescopes have been used in spotting exoplanets and near-earth asteroids, and users can collaborate through organizations like NASA and SETI.
Indeed, Unistellar's existing collaboration software is used by an online community of 10,000 observers. Live captures can be shared and, who knows, perhaps this is how extra-terrestrial life will first be seen?
As Unistellar's announcement makes plain, the investment-backed partnership will make the company more nimble in the market. It already has a presence in the US, Europe, Japan, and 60 countries, but is keen to grow. It also notes that smart tech makes it easier for urban astronomers to find their targets, despite noise pollution.
While the announcement is exciting, you can start using Unistellar's tech now; as well as the eVscope 2 we mentioned, there is also the Unistellar eQuinox 2 that uses phone screens.
If this article was of interest you might want to check our list of best computerized telescopes, or our best beginner telescope guide. If you feel you'd like to start more traditionally – and at a bit less cost – then check our best budget telescopes. Let's not forget the photographic, either; we also keep an eye on the best telescopes for astrophotography.